10 best iPad and iPhone apps for planning your holiday

It tells you what the brochures don't: that this hotel is on top of a cliff; this one's next to a building site; this one's full of stag nights, and so on. TripAdvisor doesn't just warn you - if 400 people reckon your first choice is a god-forsaken hell-hole, the sidebar shows you a whole host of alternative options with equally honest reviews.

The trick is to ignore the very worst and very best reviews and concentrate on the 'it was great, but…' ones - they tend to be the most reliable and trustworthy opinions. TripAdvisor is as good at finding local restaurants as it is at finding things for you to do when you travel abroad. It also provides access to TripAdvisor's great forums, where you can get advice on everything from gayfriendly hotels to the best places to take easily bored children and adults alike.

3. Skyscanner

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Price: Free
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch, iPad


When it comes to booking flights, Skyscanner is the app to beat. When you launch the free app it shows a collection of last-minute deals from your nearest airport, and if you're looking for something specific, it brings the results back as a handy graph showing just how expensive flights for each day is.

If your dates are flexible, that feature alone will save you a fortune, because prices vary from day to day. For example, if we'd wanted to fly to Paris from Glasgow on the fifth of the month, the cheapest flights were £94 per person, but if we were willing to wait a week, the same flights were just £34.

You can filter the results by the number of stops, direct flights and so on, and when you select certain times, Skyscanner looks for the best prices from multiple booking agents including Expedia and Lastminute.com.

4. TripIt

Price: Free
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch, iPad


So what if you're organising a trip with more than one provider or service? With Tripit, you email all your confirmations to them using the app and the service works out what's going on and adds it to your TripIt itinerary. It can easily recognise confirmation emails from some 3,000 different booking services for flights, concerts, restaurants, hotels and other key travel services - it also converts those emails into diary entries with related information such as contact information and prices paid.

If, for whatever reason, the emails don't work - and we found a few instances where emails simply vanished into the ether without turning up in our TripIt app - you can enter the details manually. The app also includes a 'find what's nearby' feature to help locate cash machines and other essentials during your trip.

The core TripIt app is free, or 69p if you don't like ads - there's also a $49 annual subscription.

5. Airbnb

Price: Free
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch


You don't need to spend a fortune on accommodation when you travel. With the excellent - and free - Airbnb app, you can find details of incredibly cheap places to stay all over the world, and there's a handy 'I need somewhere tonight!' option that finds places near you when you haven't booked ahead.

Airbnb knows about accommodation in some 33,000 cities across 192 countries, and it's great for finding deals. The available options cover everything from shared spare rooms to full apartment rentals.

It's important to note that Airbnb is a marketplace, not a travel agent. Think of it as eBay for accommodation, a service that brings buyers and sellers together, but one that doesn't do background checks and might attract the odd conmerchant. Make sure you read airbnb.co.uk/safety - Airbnb's Trust & Safety Centre - before you commit to anything.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.